The Sea, Pastel de Natas, and one too many Ponchas
By Roxana Pomplun (BA Media and Communications, Year 3)
The view we had when getting out of the airport was already stunning. Madeira: wide blue sea, sunshine, and the Desertas Islands in the distance. We couldn’t believe how beautiful it is and the excruciatingly early start in the morning, plus a 4 hour flight were forgotten at once. For now, we couldn’t wait to see Funchal.
During the cab drive from the airport, we had more overwhelming views. Driving high above sea level on the hills, we were able to see the gorgeous town of Funchal with all its orange rooftops and palm trees in an ascending order built from the sea up to into the hills. When getting into Funchal, driving up and down the steep streets got us squeaking a little bit, as it was a tiny bit scary but it was so much fun, too.
“We” were six girls from the BA Media and Communication, our programme leader Maria, and lecturer for film and TV degrees Chris. Though, these trips are open to all students from the department only our programme and year took part. However, the group had a very good size and we all got to spend a lot of time together. We stayed for almost four days but quite frankly could’ve stayed for longer, as Madeira has so much to offer and we weren’t even close to seeing all of it. For Funchal, being a relatively small city, it was sufficient, so we got to explore a lot there.
Part of the trip was to meet people from the University of Madeira and on the first day of the trip we took part in the PhD researcher’s project Fragments of Laura. It was a transmedia project that provided a storytelling experience across multiple platforms and formats and is in development for travellers visiting Funchal. Apart from this project, I found it particularly interesting to observe how PhD students and researchers are working for their projects, how they execute a case study and thus collect data that they’re going to use for their thesis. The researchers were (as basically all Portuguese we met) very nice and relaxed people.
After finishing the intermediated tour we had a chat with the local researchers and they gave us advice on what to do and try in Funchal. They highly recommended the Poncha which is a traditional drink, native to Madeira, made with Aguardente de Cana, honey, sugar, orange/lemon juice and with different fruit juices according to the version of Poncha. Traditionally though, lemon juice is used (the Fisherman’s Poncha). Clearly, we had to try it later and we did so while watching the sunset by the sea, in a bar that seemed to be mostly known to locals. This gave the whole atmosphere a very nice hassle-free flair.
The next morning we were meeting researchers of the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (MITI) for a tour through their research projects. After struggling a bit to find the right building, as the whole university and research complex was massive, we finally met our guides at the correct entrance. Firstly, they introduced us to their new International Master of Interactive Media Design that is also interesting for the students of our School of Design. It combines technological aspects with design and seems to debate current relations in digital media.
They presented their interfaculty projects of master and PhD students that were all interactive and designed for necessary cognitive purposes, particularly within psychology. The students responsible for the projects enthusiastically presented their research and results to us and gave us the chance to participate and interact with their work.
After our tour through the MITI we were walking back to the centre of Funchal, strolling around until we found a nice restaurant. There we tried local dishes, like a traditional soup, traditional bread, and loads of other smaller Portuguese dishes that we shared, especially seafood. After this, we were so full of all the food that we could only sit by the sea and enjoy the view (and yet managed to eat another Pastel de Nata (the Portuguese custard tard) – there’s always room for dessert).
After sunbathing and eating more food the next day, we decided to take the cable cars up to the hill to visit the botanical gardens. The view from the cable cars was spectacular and it was interesting to see how we go up from sunshine by the sea into the clouds up the hills. Up there, we realised that there were two things up there: the botanical gardens and the Jardim Tropical Monte Palace. We didn’t get to see the palace but we still had a superb time.
It was beautiful on the hills but our favourite place was the old town of Funchal: loads of little unique restaurants and bars, pretty buildings, and narrow streets. The Rua de Santa Maria was the most gorgeous street, as it had a lot of street art, like beautifully painted doors (so very Instagramable).
After having an excellent dinner, we went on a little bar crawl (alongside one or two Ponchas) and experienced Funchal’s nightlife, with many people being out on the streets, enjoying their drinks outside, and simply having a good time. Everyone was extremely friendly and chatty and altogether Funchal had an amazing atmosphere, even at night.
On our final day we appreciated some more good food and our last bits of the warming Madeira sun, before leaving for the airport. Later in the evening we arrived in London – tired but happy, for we had such a wonderful time on our brief vacation.